Turks’ Wease Still Eager

08/06/2009 – Daily News Record

Team’s Owner Plans To Remain Field Manager Written By Matthew Stoff Daily News Record Sports Dept.

HARRISONBURG – Bob Wease’s office at his used-car dealership on South Main Street is a box-shaped room decorated with baseball paraphernalia, six framed pictures of vintage Corvettes and a print of an etching of Ronald Reagan in a cowboy hat.

And it seems that any of it could be had at a price. He once sold a 1962 Corvette and a 1967 Austin-Healey, decisions he now regrets.

One thing he has no intention of giving up, though, is his baseball team, the Harrisonburg Turks, which Wease has owned since 1990 and managed on the field since 2002.

Asked this week if the Turks were on the market, the competitive 65-year-old said no. He also made it clear he does not plan to give up his manager’s job, either.

“Absolutely not,” said Wease, who has 213-136 record as the team’s skipper. “I’ll stop doing it if it starts being a problem – if I can’t throw batting practice every day. When it gets to that point, when I can’t do that and I can’t hit fungoes, I’ll know when.”

Luray’s Mike Bocock, a longtime Valley Baseball League manager and Wease’s baseball rival, hopes it’s not soon.

“I’ll tell you what, I hope he never retires,” said Bocock, “because he’s awfully fun to compete against.”

Wease describes himself as a “young 65,” so the fun is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, even if this season was less-than-giddy for the Turks.

Harrisonburg stumbled through a seemingly cursed 2009, playing at a foreign “home” field, finishing with a 20-24 record and missing the VBL playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. Beyond that, Wease had to alter his routine.

Until this season, Wease took infield and batting practice with the team. That stopped this summer after he slipped on a step in November and tore his right patella tendon. But Wease, a former Turks second baseman, still maintains he can outrun a man half his age.

“If you don’t believe how good Bob is, ask him. He’ll tell you,” Bocock said with a laugh.

It’s the same way with the Turks.

“I think we could have won the whole thing if we’d gotten into the playoffs,” Wease said.

Whether that’s true, he’ll never know, but the Turks did have one of the best pitching staffs in the 12-team VBL. They finished fifth in ERA at 4.14, but Harrisonburg hovered in the top three for most of the season. The offense, however, was inconsistent, with a .258 average – fourth-worst in the wooden-bat league, which includes college players from throughout the nation.

The Turks also were stripped by injuries and early defections, which trimmed their roster down the stretch from 28 to 21. The losses included their top hitter Bobby Brown (knee injury) and their star closer Chris Sorce (signed with the Seattle Mariners).

“I thought he had a great team,” Bocock said. “The struggles weren’t anything to do with Bob. When your closer leaves – a kid like Sorce – and your best hitter leaves, that’s going to cause some problems. That’s going to cause your team to not be as competitive.”

The Turks also had to deal with a one-summer stay at James Madison University’s half-turf, half-grass Long Field after JMU demolished their longtime home, Memorial Stadium, to build a new $9.7 million baseball/softball complex.

Although the Turks will play there next season, they were stuck at light-less Long Field this summer. That meant 5 p.m. starts, which Wease said translated into lower attendance. Wease – who did not keep attendance totals – estimated that crowds were down by “at least half,” with the biggest coming on opening day.

Still, Wease said he would pick Long Field again over Harrisonburg High School – the other venue the Turks considered for their temporary home.

“I liked the field and everything,” Wease said. “I just didn’t like that we didn’t have lights. That was the hardest thing. … I picked the right school. I still would go back. One nice thing about JMU is there’s not a lot of field maintenance.”

The impending move to JMU’s much-improved complex is another thing keeping Wease in the dugout. But that’s not the only thing.

“I love it all,” said Wease, who mentioned possibly leaving the Turks to his son Matt in the future. “I like the players. I like the guys ’round the batting cage shooting the crap. The bus rides, the games, the conversations after the game – I enjoy it all.”

And that, it seems, is priceless. Matthew Stoss Sports Reporter Sports Department mstoss@dnronline.com 540-574-6284


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